#73 Vanderbilt Football 2015 Preview

Vanderbilt Commodores

Overall Rank: #73
#14 SEC

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Vanderbilt suffered through a tough season during Coach Derek Mason’s debut campaign. The Commodores went winless in SEC play and only managed to beat Umass, Charleston Southern and Old Dominion. Their other non-conference foe was Temple, who they lost to at home by 30 points. It was ugly, but the good news is this team should be better and might be able to even beat an SEC opponent at some point.

2014 Record: 3-9, 0-8
2014 Bowl: None
Coach: Derek Mason (3-9 at Vanderbilt, 3-9 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Andy Ludwig
Defensive Coordinator: Derek Mason

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Ralph Webb, RB, 907 yards
Passing: Johnny McCrary, QB, 985 yards
Receiving: Steven Scheu, TE, 525 yards
Tackles: Nigel Bowden, LB, 78
Sacks: Stephen Weatherly, LB, 4.5
Interceptions: Taurean Ferguson, CB, 2; Torren McGaster, DB, 2

Other Key Returnees: WR C.J. Duncan, WR Latevius Rayford, RB Darrius Sims, LB Zach Cunningham, DE Caleb Azubike, S Andrew Williamson

Key Losses: QB Patton Robbinette

Comparatively speaking, Vanderbilt’s defense was the strength last year and should be again this time around. However, there will be some changes with Coach Mason taking over the defensive coordinator duties himself. The front three is solid with Adam Butler, Caleb Azubike and nose tackle Nifae Lealao leading the way. Lealao is just a sophomore, but he has already proven that he can push people in the middle of the line. Stephen Weatherly will provide much of the pass rushing from his outside linebacker spot. He recorded 4.5 sacks last season. The rest of the linebacker corps is very young, but Nigel Bowden led this team in tackles as a freshman and will again man one of the inside linebacker spots. He should emerge as a defensive leader despite his youth. The secondary has more issues. Vanderbilt needs to find another corner opposite of Torren McGaster.

The offense ranked 105th in the nation or worse in rushing offense, passing offense, total offense and scoring offense. There is a lot of room for improvement after scoring just nine offensive touchdowns in SEC action. Johnny McCrary is the likely starter under center after leading the team with 985 passing yards a year ago. Wade Freebeck is an option as well, but he threw five interceptions to just one touchdown in 2014. Tight end Steven Scheu is a nice safety valve for McCrary, but other receivers like C.J. Duncan and Latevius Rayford need to be bigger threats downfield. The ground game will again be led by Ralph Webb, who rushed for 907 yards and four scores as a freshman. The hope is the young skill players can grow up together and make a big step up this year, but there is a long, long way to go.

The Bottom Line:
Vanderbilt does avoid Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Mississippi State and LSU from the SEC West, so that is a good place to start. But games against Texas A&M and Ole Miss are not particularly winnable for this team anyway. If the defensive front seven can live up to their potential, the defense could be decent enough to keep the Commodores in some conference games. The offense will have to make some plays though.

Projected Bowl: None

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 109.3 (113th in nation, 14th in conference)
Passing Offense: 179.1 (105, 13)
Total Offense: 288.3 (122, 14)
Scoring Offense: 17.2 (116, 14)
Rushing Defense: 183.8 (86, 11)
Pass Defense: 218.3 (49, 9)
Total Defense: 402.1 (68, 10)
Scoring Defense: 33.3 (104, 14)
Turnover Margin: -1.33 (121, 14)
Sacks: 1.50 (101, 12)
Sacks Allowed: 1.75 (39, 7)

Madness 2015 Recruit Rankings:
#169 Josh Smith


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